Ok, ok, so I know it is still over 2 months until Funday...but I like to get my plans done EARLY! We are driving out 2 days before and coming back the day after Funday. I would LOVE to to a meet-up with any other bloggers/puppy raisers: you can leave a comment or email me privately. We plan on doing 'Follow the Trainer', Muir Woods, Pier 39, and at least one beach trip. If anyone is familiar with the area and can recommend any other activities (that would be good to do with 3 people and 3 guide dog pups) please let me know.
I am really excited for this trip as I did not make it out last year. This year the theme is 'Western' and I am currently on the hunt for some nice cowboy hats for the dogs. Already have a black one for Miss Becky...but Janetta and Rafferty need tan hats so they have some contrast.
A note on my posting (or lack there-of this week)....I have been meaning too...but with over 20 new animals in at work, plus SAR training and a new puppy, I have just been a little behind. Hopefully I will start catching up and staying on target!
A big congrats to PARIS who is already in PHASE 1!!!! At this rate I need to start blocking out Aug/Sept graduation dates for OR :) Go PARIS!!!
Let me know if you are going to the San Rafael Funday...should be a howlin' good time!
Today Paris headed off to Guide Dog's Oregon campus for her formal harness training (aka doggie college). She has been with Megan since last September and has gotten the best possible instruction for success in whatever she decides to do. She was my surprise puppy at last years puppy truck and taught me so much with her joy and enthusiasm. Even after two eye surgeries Paris was always ready to go on that grand adventure we call life.
I was lucky enough to see Paris before she left and snapped a picture that shows just how much she has grown and matured. I know my baby girl will be the best at whatever she sets her mind to, though I would love to see her in harness in a couple months!
Becky is my fifth puppy for Guide Dogs for the Blind. She is a starter puppy for the High School Raising Program. She will be with me until late Sept/early Oct. She was born 2.28.10 to Piedmont/Geraldine. So far she has been a great puppy. As good as one can expect for a baby to hold still during pictures, not a whole lot of crying in her crate, and she was very easy to bathe!
This was a very cool puppy truck for me as I was able to have my 3rd, 4th, and 5th puppies all together. Paris, my third pup, leaves Sunday for formal training at the Oregon campus.
Well we did it. Tom and I bought a raft today. We got hooked on river rafting last summer and have been looking for a used raft. Found one and got it! Now to do some outfitting, get some dates set, and head to the river. Marley and Hugo are going to have another fun summer. Oh yeah, and we bought a big raft so the dogs would have plently of room. They are not spoiled at all. Lucky dogs.
This past Saturday we had a final puppy meeting for Jackson who will be leaving on the puppy truck Friday morning. I was very lucky to have Megan come up with Paris and join our group for some puppy bowling fun. (We weren't bowling with the actual puppies :)
Jackson and Paris were our club's spring pups last year so it was very cool to have the final meeting be a going away party for both of them.
Today I headed down and met up with Megan and Gabby for some practice in wilderness searches. When first training a 'air scent' dog we do something called 'runaways'. These are short, easy sessions in which a victim runs away with the dog's toy. This is all done in sight of the dog, and at first is very simple. The idea is to get the dog to want to find their toy, and in doing so also find the person. As they progress they start to associate the toy with the scent of a person.
Gradually runaways get harder and harder, forcing the dog to rely more on scent than sight. Today we did a couple simple runaways and then progressed to more difficult searches. Hugo is being trained to do a 're-find'. This means that when he locates a person he will come back to his handler and give an alert. In his case this is a bark alert. When he barks at me I then give him the "show me" command and he will lead me back to the victim. This is very important when searching large areas where the dog may range far ahead or be out of sight due to thick vegetation.
Hugo was doing very nicely with his re-finds with only a little prompting from myself. We also did a blind search where he did not watch the person run away: but he still found them! While we are working in very small areas right now, Hugo is learning important skills that will later be put to the test when searching large areas. What a fun activity that will hopefully lead to a very important job!
At the end of the training session I got to do lunch with Gabby, Megan and Paris! Such a treat especially when Paris heads off for formal training in less than a week. All in all it was a great day!
About 6 weeks ago I started training Hugo in search and rescue. Tom and I are both partnering on this training adventure, and both of us will hopefully be certified to work Hugo in different capacities. Right now I am doing the bulk of the cadaver work while Tom is focusing more on wilderness, with a plan to shift to avalanche once the season starts. However we both attend training sessions and are learning to work with Hugo in every capacity.
Today we went and worked on a pigeon hole board. This is a long sheet of plywood with evenly spaced round holes cut into it. There is a top row, middle row, and bottom row. Behind the holes are short plastic tubes that are open both in the front and the back. The idea here is to bring a dog who has been exposed to cadaver scent and start teaching him that the reward comes from the source. This is to create both a reliable alert and a loyalty to their find. In wilderness training the same principle is applied, but with a live victim it is easier to have their reward waiting for them.
Once the dog understands the principle behind looking for the scent, a helper will move the source and place it in a different hole each round. The handler will stand back and give the dog their search command. Once the dog starts searching it is the helpers job to keep the dog focused on the search and to reward the dog from inside the hole once they alert on the scent. Hugo's alert is a down at the source. Today was only his second time working the pigeon hole board and he was already figuring out his alert!
After a couple successful rounds on the board we took him out into a more natural setting where a source had been placed in a tree low to the ground. It was a very easy set-up, but a very big step for Hugo. This was the moment where we would see if he had truly learned the unique scent and would seek it out. After giving him the search command we waited anxiously as he started to sniff the area. He was working pretty fast when he caught the scent as he went past the tree. His head snapped around and he went right to the source!!! We were very excited and praised Hugo. He did not give an automatic down, but for the first search in a new area he was awesome! We will continue to work on his alerts and search. One of the evaluators said we could possibly test Hugo in his Cadaver 1 certification this fall as well as in Wilderness, with an avalanche certification following early winter.
Can't wait to continue working with Hugo and watching his quick progress!
Well, May looks to be an eventful month. One I am going to attempt to cover with daily blog posts. Highlights to include: a recap of tonight's bowling send-off party for Paris and Jackson, coverage of two new puppies to Summit Guide Dogs, Marley's prep for Splash! Dogs, and Hugo's trip to Yellowstone for Search and rescue training. Today's will be short but oh so sweet.